Last week, I had the privilege of testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations at a hearing titled “Political and Economic Developments in Latin America and Opportunities for U.S. Engagement.” Also joining me before the committee were Thomas McLarty, chairman of McLarty Associates, and Eric Farnsworth, vice president of Americas Society and Council of the Americas.
In my written testimony I laid out the largely positive trends in Latin America and the benefits for the United States of working more closely with countries in the region. I also called for deepening integration with Mexico and Canada, and supporting the rise of homegrown anticorruption efforts throughout the region. Below is an excerpt.
As the United States grapples with extremism and authoritarianism abroad, Latin America is largely a good news story. The region has changed dramatically over the past few decades, mostly for the better. Today the region is overwhelmingly democratic. Authoritarian rule is mostly relegated to the past, replaced by competitive parties, vibrant civil societies, and institutional checks and balances.
Latin America is home to an increasing number of market-friendly economies with close ties to the United States. Over the last twenty-five years trade with the region outpaced that with the rest of the world, as U.S. exports to Latin America jumped sevenfold. These nations now buy over a quarter of all U.S. exports, supporting tens of millions of jobs here at home. Many of our products are bought by the region’s middle class, which added over 100 million members during the last decade’s economic prosperity. In South America, this socioeconomic center comprises a near majority of the continent’s 400 million citizens. Latin America is also resource rich, containing 20 percent of the world’s oil reserves, as well as numerous other commodities.
Finally, the region largely shares U.S. values, providing many current and potential allies for the United States when negotiating complicated global issues in multilateral forums, including financial architecture, climate change, and transnational organized crime. Recent changes, from the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations to the election of Mauricio Macri in Argentina, further the potential for positive shifts in bilateral and regional relations.
You can read the rest of my written testimony, read the written testimonies of my fellow witnesses, and watch a recording of the hearing on the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations website.
Published in conjunction with Latin America’s Moment at the Council on Foreign Relations.